Another note from Australia … Q & R from a Gen Y emerging leader

Three excellent questions (slightly edited) from an emerging leader down under:

I hope things are grand ! I’m excited to read your upcoming book…
My name is ???, I’m a young lawyer in Sydney, Australia, and I met you at the World Vision “Where Faith meets the World” workshop. First, thank you so much for your books, blogs, etc. They have been a huge blessing to me, and those around me 🙂
During morning tea at the workshop, I shared with you that I wanted to study theology.. but that I didn’t know whether I should, or, where I should.
I’ve always felt I wanted to be a minister of some sort at some stage, and feel ill-equiped at present (perhaps that’ll never change!). There were 2 main questions I asked you, both which you asked me to raise during question time – alas, I didnt get the opportunity. So, here goes:
Question 1.
Where does a Gen Y-er go to learn how to be a new kind of Christian? – or, be mentored by ‘a new kind of’ Christian? Is there value in attending an ‘evangelical’ or other seminary? Are there particular Christian or not Christian think tanks or groups where one could connect to other folk on a similar journey?

Reply and additional questions after the jump …

R: Great to hear from you. I remember speaking with you during the break. The good news is that a lot of seminaries are in transition, grappling with the reality that their conventional models of education are economically unsustainable and ill-suited to the emerging context. The bad news is that it’s not an easy or fast process. Here’s what I’d recommend – look for writers/scholars whose work is helping you, and focus your search on where these writers teach. If it were me, I’d be looking for opportunities to learn from people like Randy Woodley, Gabriel Salguero, Ruth Padilla-DeBorst, John Franke, LeRon Schultz, Jurgen Moltmann, Richard Rohr, Jo-Ann Badley, Dwight Friesen, Jason Clark, Phyllis Tickle, Peter Heltzel, Samir Selmanovic, Steve Chalke, Mabiala Kenzo, and others.
For years a few of us have been dreaming about finding ways to bring people together for nontraditional learning … not just intellectual and theological content, but practice in the spiritual disciplines and community. Maybe something like this will develop in the next couple years? If it does, I’ll be sure to promote it here. You continue …

The ‘conversation’ gave me courage to allow myself to think the things and ask the questions that had been tugging on me for some time. Discovering Claiborne, Wallis, and your writing was like “WOAH !! These guys are thinking what I’m thinking !!”
However, and I know I’m not alone on this one.. institutional rigidity, politics and backlash has led to many folk who are chasing a new kind of Christianity falling out of or being kicked out of faith communities.. to be left in a somewhat lonely void.. trying to pick up the pieces and move forward into … the unknown. This is my experience.
I think I speak for many Gen Y-ers who cannot accept the ‘old kind of Christianity’ who have put their hand up and are saying “I want to be trained!” “I want to learn!” “I want to be taught!”…. “I want to run this race!” …
But I haven’t really found any, or easily accessible communities or institutions or groups to join or be part of … no rabbis to really ‘follow’, or rabbis who say, “come, follow me as I follow Christ”… or.. “Come.. Ill show you the way”. It’s sad, because on so many of my friends have rejected evangelical Christianity but have lost the baby with the bathwater.. they missed the new kind of Christian boat, if you will.. and I think it’s because they didn’t know there was an alternative. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You’re describing my sense of things exactly. I’m going to talk to a couple friends about the need to create something like this today and again, will post here if anything comes up … maybe I should say “when something takes shape,” because what you’re describing is so needed.

Question 2.
In a new kind of Christianity, what purpose does an institution have? Or.. what does the institutional church look like in a new kind of Christianity?
I have a hunch that the story of Acts is of God dispersing those with the message.. decentralising the new kingdom… but having a small institution of elders who can connect all the smaller groups together for certain ends.
Perhaps this question is better ask in the following terms: Is an organisation like World Vision a picture of the future of the institutional Christian church?

R: Well, as you know, I’m a big fan of organizations like World Vision that make a difference in the lives of people in need. But I don’t think World Vision could exist without there being thousands of churches that are discipling people generation by generation, so I see their relationship as symbiotic, not one replacing the other.
I think you’ll enjoy the section in my upcoming book on the relationship between movements and institutions. I think there’s a place for institutions: the questions are … what is the institution standing for, what are its purposes, how well is it achieving those purposes, and … this is key … what is the relationship of the institution to the movements that could bring it change and renewal?

Question 3
I was sharing with you my ‘hunch’ that perhaps the kingdom of God is purposed to be so pervasive, so ingrained, so influential, but so undercover.. that it transforms society without the society actually being aware of it… or without any particular group being able to claim it, name it, and pin it down… and thereby mar it with humanity. I guess it would be a social phenomena .. a revival.. but not connected to a ‘religion’ or otherwise.. but perhaps an outpouring of goodwill and peace.. like a pandemic of the fruits of the spirit.. such that atheist, gay, straight, Orthodox, Liberal, Muslim, Hindu, etc.. could all embrace what we might call the kingdom of God… but what they might call something else… and in that, all humanity could rejoice…
It reminds me of that great footnote to all Prayers by C.S. Lewis:
He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshiping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

R: You are a very perceptive and insightful person! Another way to raise the same question would be to say, “Does the church own exclusive rights to the kingdom, or does the church serve the kingdom?” My vote is with the latter. We Christians have done, I think, exactly what Judaism did in the time before Jesus: we’ve taken the exclusive rights approach. Jesus came to say that the Spirit is like wind … can’t be contained in a temple or holy city or priesthood or single faith community. We need to listen to Jesus again today, which is a major theme of my book that comes out in just a few days. I think a lot of people who read my blog will really benefit by considering what you’ve said here …
You concluded ….

This was all in the context of, Where does one go to ‘learn’ the philosophical/theological/practical underpinnings of all of this.. etc (my question1 below) if this is where God might be call us ? You said.. “well…hmmmm.. yes… hmm.. well… why don’t I give you my email address..” 🙂
… If I wanted to become a Doctor, I would study and sit an entrance exam, go to a good university, and i’d be on my way. – nice, simple, modern (!).
But if I want to be an disciple. . . If I want to learn what the way is, and to live in it… : perhaps it is simply a matter of asking the questions, following the inner promptings, living by those convictions and seeing where it leads?
Perhaps you have some further thoughts on this?

R:Again, I think you’ve described the problem perfectly, and perhaps God will use your words to help some of us develop what needs to be developed. You’re right – I don’t think it will be exactly like Law School or Med School or Seminary as it’s now known – but I do think it needs to take more shape than it has at the moment! Again, thanks for these great questions … you’ve added some good work to my day to grapple with this.